National Adult Learner Coalition

The National Adult Learner Coalition’s mission is to advance the adult learner agenda to expand post-secondary education and credentialing opportunities that will strengthen our communities, regions, and national economy. UPCEA, along with Online Learning Consortium (OLC) are founding members of the Coalition and represent almost 1,000 higher education institutions throughout the United States that have long been leaders and innovators in expanding opportunities for adult and contemporary learners.

The Coalition will promote policies that align post-secondary education and America’s workforce development goals to produce better outcomes and access for the majority of today’s students. The Coalition fills a void in the higher education policy community which, until now, lacked a unified voice representing the adult learner and the institutions and programs that serve them.

The Coalition’s goals include:

  • Modernizing federal education and workforce policy to reflect the reality that the adult learner is the new normal
  • Educating stakeholders on the value and needs of adult learners and innovative ways to serve them
  • Mobilizing colleges and universities, employers, government, and other key constituencies to advance the adult learner.

The Coalition is also working to increase awareness of the need for support for innovative directions such as competency-based education, prior learning assessment, and alternative credentialing, which hold great promise for reaching those adults currently underserved.


View the video recording of the Coalition's Capitol Hill briefing focusing on economic trends, institutional and student challenges, building blocks, and policy opportunities.



Originally held:
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 12-1 p.m. EST
Location: Russell Senate Office Building 385, or via webcast

Expansion of the American economy cannot be fully achieved without successful degree attainment by adults. Through the newly formed National Adult Learner Coalition, four organizations are speaking in a unified voice on behalf of the adult learner and the institutions that serve them.

This session will explain the importance of the adult learner and demonstrate how small changes in federal policy can help a majority of today's students and help build a stronger workforce for tomorrow. Three panelists will offer distinct perspectives of adult learners, higher education policy and the workforce:

  • Anthony P. Carnevale, Research Professor and Director, McCourt School of Public Policy at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
  • John C. Cavanaugh, President & CEO, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area
  • Monique Wardrick, adult learner, veteran and recent graduate and current student at the University of Maryland University College


  • Bob Hansen, CEO, UPCEA
  • Becky Klein-Collins, Associate Vice President, Research and Policy Development, CAEL

Op-Ed by Bob Hansen, CEO, UPCEA in The Hill:
"Old policies little help to new wave of college students"

Old policies little help to new wave of college students

From lush green quads to ivy-covered lecture halls, the image of “college” conjures up, for many of us, fond memories of our own educational experience. But for most of today’s students, this vision of a traditional college experience is something glimpsed from afar, if at all.

Adult learners cobble together their educational experience using a combination of online, evening, and off-campus courses. They pursue degrees and credentials that are often not found in the “core undergraduate experience” that remains the standard for most institutions.

Unfortunately, the framework for higher education policy in the U.S. is still largely based on a model of the university (and student) that was more relevant over 50 years ago, when the first Higher Education Act was passed in 1965. For the U.S. to compete in the global economy, modernizing higher education policy to reflect the new reality of adult learners is imperative.

Click here to read the full op-ed by UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen in The Hill.

For more information about the Coalition, contact Jordan DiMaggio, [email protected]

Members of the
National Adult Learner Coalition:
  • Online Learning Consortium (OLC)

For more information about the Coalition, contact Jordan DiMaggio, [email protected]